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Press Conference by the Chief Cabinet Secretary

March 11, 2016 (PM)

Press Conference by the Chief Cabinet Secretary (Excerpt)

[Provisional Translation]


REPORTER: I would like to ask a question regarding the economy. The European Central Bank (ECB) decided on additional monetary easing. The objective is to shore up prices by expanding negative interest rates. First, could you share your comments?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: First of all, I am aware that on March 10, the ECB Governing Council decided on additional easing, including the lowering of policy interest rates. While I would like to refrain from commenting specifically about the monetary policies of other countries, Japan expects that appropriate responses would be taken based on the internal and external situations. In any case, we will continue to closely follow the situation, including the effects on the world economy and markets.

REPORTER: I have a related question. During his press conference, President Mario Draghi of the ECB expressed the opinion that there are heightened risks to the ECB’s price stability policy objective. Here in Japan, there have been ongoing observations that the country is toying with the idea of additional easing. What do you think about such possibilities in light of the current situation of the Japanese economy?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: First, we hope that the recent decision will lead to economic growth of the Eurozone through price stability in this region, and produce favorable impacts for the world economy that includes Japan. In addition, while we are aware of the recent market fluctuations, we perceive that Japan’s economic fundamentals are solid. We will continue to closely follow the situation, including the market trends.

REPORTER: My question is in regard to the comfort women issue. At the United Nations (UN) Human Rights Council, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights referred to comfort women as women who survived sexual slavery by Japanese military forces during World War II, and then made critical remarks about the agreement between Japan and the Republic of Korea (ROK) reached at the end of last year, stating that its terms have been questioned by the former comfort women. What is your take on this?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: First of all, in the Japan-ROK agreement, the Japanese and ROK foreign ministers agreed that the comfort women issue is resolved finally and irreversibly, and this was confirmed by the leaders of the two countries. In addition, this agreement has been welcomed by the UN Secretary-General as well as countries such as the United States and the United Kingdom. The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights’ reference to questions being raised about the Japan-ROK agreement diverges significantly from the opinion of the international community and is very regrettable.

REPORTER: There is the fact of the matter that the assertions of the Japanese Government have not pervaded the UN, especially concerning the comfort women issue. How does the Government intend to deal with this situation?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: Japan has already made the position of the Japanese Government clear in a statement. The Government will lodge protests to UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein and firmly assert the position of the Japanese Government. Simultaneously, the Government strongly notes and protests that the issue has been resolved irreversibly and finally between Japan and the ROK.


REPORTER: With today marking five years since the earthquake disaster, I would like to ask about the Government’s crisis management system. I gather that the Government has been strengthening its crisis management responses based on the lessons learned from the Great Hanshin Earthquake and the Great East Japan Earthquake. At the same time, many problems have been pointed out in connection with the last disaster, namely, confusion about the chain of command in a complex disaster and delays in the coordination among the ministries and agencies. Japan continues to face the risk of a Nankai trough earthquake and Tokyo inland earthquake. Can you once again explain what kind of mindset or system is necessary or is important in this regard?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: First of all, the Government has reviewed its crisis management responses numerous times based on the lessons from the Great East Japan Earthquake. First, it is important that the relevant agencies take collective responses with the Prime Minister’s Office serving as the control tower. Therefore, under the leadership of the Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary for Crisis Management, ongoing efforts are being made to develop a system that ensures that at the moment or instant a disaster strikes, we can promptly get the first report, swiftly implement the initial response, quickly set up the government structure, and provide information to the people. The relevant agencies coordinate swiftly to take these responses, for example, in response to the recent missile launch by North Korea. Specifically, first, we are taking steps so that the Cabinet Information Collection Center and the Crisis Management Center can be operated around the clock at the Prime Minister’s Office and the first report can be made quickly, so that a report can be made to the senior members of the Prime Minister’s Office, including the Prime Minister. In addition, a response office is established within the Prime Minister’s Office under the leadership of the Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary for Crisis Management. An emergency team composed of the directors general of the relevant ministries and agencies, and depending on the circumstances, I will also attend the meetings to quickly grasp the situation and conduct the overall coordination of the Government’s initial response. Furthermore, emergency and ad hoc meetings will be held based on the Prime Minister’s instructions. We have implemented such response measures on numerous occasions. At the same time, we are now taking measures in anticipation of the Nankai trough earthquake and the Tokyo inland earthquake in light of the lessons learned from the Great Hanshin-Awaji Earthquake and the Great East Japan Earthquake. We have twice revised our disaster countermeasures laws and acts. In this sense, even in legal terms we are steadily developing arrangements to ensure coordination between the central and local governments. We will carry out thorough preparations on a day-to-day basis, so that when the time comes we can be sure that these arrangements we have established can be set into motion.

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